California wildfires disaster could 'get worse before it gets better'

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Saying that law enforcement officers in Sonoma County were going door to door to pull people from their homes as the fires approached, Pimlott said it was critical that residents heeded evacuation orders so firefighters could focus on containing the flames that were nourished into giants by 50 miles per hour winds on Sunday night.

Thousands of people have been left homeless by the 22 huge blazes, which are spreading fast and unpredictably.

"And if they're asked to go, they should go", Eliason said.

"When you look at the destruction, it's literally like it exploded", Pimlott said a day before that prediction.

"Make no mistake: This is a serious, critical, catastrophic event", Pimlott said. Sonoma County is receiving help from many law enforcement and fire agencies, Giordano said.

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Calistoga Joint Unified School District and Saint Helena Unified School District have both canceled classes through the rest of this week because of the wildfires burning in Napa County since Sunday night, district officials said Tuesday. Countless emergency vehicles sped toward the flames, sirens blaring, as evacuees sped away.

Wildfires raging across broad swaths of northern California have hospitalised hundreds, and charred about 170,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced almost 20,000 residents to evacuate, local media reports said.

The latest round of evacuations comes after 20,000 people were ordered to leave when the fires broke out earlier this week. "We've had hurricanes three weeks in a row, an natural disaster in Mexico City, and then this fire".

Just as firefighters seem to be getting the upper hand on that monster home-destroying blaze in Orange County, weather forecasters had some bad news Wednesday: Hot, dry Santa Ana winds are coming and that means increasing fire danger.

Some 2,000 homes have been destroyed by flames so far. On Wednesday, the ridges were obscured by the growing clouds of smoke.

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The Sonoma County sheriff's officials also said 380 people were still listed missing in wine country.

Kris Hammar, who lives in the city of Santa Rosa on the edge of a mandatory evacuation zone, had not yet evacuated but was monitoring maps, wind direction, and fire updates to see if she and her family should bolt.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said on its Facebook page that it had received 150 missing person reports but was "confident that many of these people will be found safe and reunited with loved ones". Chaotic evacuations and poor communications over the past few days have made locating friends and family hard. "The devastation is enormous", he said.

The smoke may linger for days, underscoring the need for people to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid strenuous exercise in smoky areas, air regulators cautioned.

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